MSS#0049 Embracing Your True Self - Beyond ‘Imposter syndrome’

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MSS #049 Embracing Your True Self - Beyond ‘Imposter syndrome’

16 Dec 23

MSS #049: Embracing Your True Self - Beyond 'Imposter Syndrome'.

16 Dec, 2023

Read time: 4.9 minutes

In a hurry? Cut straight to the Help at hand: 7 Steps to Embrace Your True Self and skip the rest - reduced read time 1.6 minutes.

This week, we're tackling the often-misunderstood concept of 'Imposter Syndrome'. But let's reframe it: it's not a syndrome, it's a part of our journey to building self-confidence.

I really am not a fan of this title ‘Imposter Syndrome’, because that’s not what it is. It’s a perfectly normal feeling and evaluation we all encounter.

Let’s get into it now.

Redefining 'Imposter Syndrome’

We often label our self-doubt as a 'syndrome', but it's a natural part of our self-growth. It's about understanding our inner doubts and transforming them into stepping stones towards self-assurance.

This sense and feeling is often associated with a new role in life, whether that be at home or work. At home there may have been a change where you become a parent, a step parent, you have a new partner or you get married or buy a property together.

Often it boils down to am I good enough.

Often this new role may be a trigger – but the feeling persists well beyond the foothills of recently taking on the new role.

Let me translate that for you - you are most likely a conscientious person who strives to be your best and make sure you are doing good by others! NEWSFLASH – celebrate this. This means you are coming at this from a point of caring, nothing wrong with that in my book.

I am officially calling this now “Role conscientiousness”.


Decoding ‘Role conscientiousness’

This shows up as a common psychological pattern where individuals doubt their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a "fraud," despite evidence of their competence. Here are some typical characteristics, any of these familiar?

1. Persistent Self-Doubt: Despite successes, individuals often feel they're not as capable as others perceive them to be.

2. Attributing Success to External Factors: Successes are often attributed to luck, timing, or deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they actually are.

3. Fear of Failure: A deep-seated fear that they won't live up to expectations, leading to a reluctance to take on new challenges.

4. Overachieving: Compensating for perceived inadequacies by working harder and longer than necessary, often to the point of burnout.

5. Perfectionism: Setting very high, often unattainable, standards for oneself and being overly critical of any mistakes.

6. Undermining Achievements: Minimising success and feeling like they don't deserve praise or recognition.

7. Difficulty Accepting Positive Feedback: Dismissing compliments or positive feedback, believing they're not truly deserved.

8. Feeling Like a Fraud: A pervasive sense of being deceitful or tricking others into overestimating their abilities.

9. Chronic Self-Comparison: Regularly comparing oneself unfavourably to peers or colleagues, reinforcing feelings of inadequacy.


It's important to note that Role Conscientiousness can affect anyone regardless of their skill level, achievements, or social status, and can be particularly prevalent among high-achievers.

In fact, if you recognise this as you, give yourself a pat on the back – it means you are doing a good job and want to do even better!


Help at hand: 7 Steps to Embrace Your True Self

Regardless of what we call it, it’s not a fun place to be. Here are some idea’s to help.

1. Normal to Doubt, Not to Dwell: Feeling inadequate occasionally is part of the human experience. However, dwelling on these thoughts can be harmful.

Recognise your feelings, but don't let them define you. For example, if you feel out of place in a role, remind yourself of your past successes and qualifications that led you to this position.

By the way, if you are feeling inadequate, you have made it. Take a look at fellow sufferers in the section at the end called “Meet a gallery of fellow sufferers.”


2. Gather Success Trophies: Document your achievements in a journal. Whether it's positive feedback from a colleague or a completed project, write it down.

When you feel doubtful, look back at your journal. It serves as tangible proof of your capabilities and accomplishments.


3. Positive Self-Talk is Key: Start identifying negative self-talk patterns. Replace them with facts and positive affirmations.

For instance, instead of thinking, "I can't handle this project," tell yourself, "I've managed similar challenges before and learned from them."


4. Define Success for You: Success is subjective. Identify what it means to you. It could be work-life balance, continuous learning, or achieving specific career milestones.

By setting your own success metrics, you reduce the pressure of external expectations and focus on what truly matters to you.

I have spoken a lot before about how expectations are something we control, but we seldom review or adjust and can be the cause of suffering.


5. 'Good Enough' Can Be Perfect: Perfectionism can be paralyzing. Recognise when a task is completed to a satisfactory level and move on.

This approach helps conserve your energy and focus on other important tasks. For instance, instead of obsessively revising a presentation, understand that it already meets the necessary criteria and focus on preparing for the delivery instead.


6. Plan for Mistakes Compassionately: View mistakes as learning opportunities. Create a plan for how you'll respond to and learn from them.

This approach reduces the fear of failure and promotes a growth mindset. When a mistake occurs, analyse it constructively: What can be learned? How can it be avoided in the future?

James Joyce put it better than me “Mistakes are the portals of discovery”


7. Value Your Uniqueness, Mind Your Expectations: Your journey and experiences are unique and valuable. Set realistic expectations that challenge you but are achievable.

This might mean setting incremental goals in your personal or professional life, ensuring each step is manageable and aligned with your capabilities.



Remember, reframing 'Imposter Syndrome' as a journey toward self-confidence empowers us to embrace our individuality and grow from our experiences and let’s call it what it is “Role consciousness”.

Final Thought: "Be you, that's what you were destined to be" - Matt Sturgess


Meet a gallery of fellow sufferers!

You’re amongst illustrious people, take a look at the small sample of those that have expressed what you have or are feeling – this is confirmation you are in the top echelons.

1. Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks: Schultz has expressed feelings of self-doubt and insecurity, despite his significant achievements with Starbucks.

2. Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx: "Every time I was about to go on stage, I felt like I was going to throw up. I was so scared. I felt like an imposter."

3. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft: Nadella has spoken about grappling with imposter syndrome, particularly when he became CEO of Microsoft, and how he works through these feelings.

4. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post: Huffington once said, "I still have voices in my head: 'You’re a fraud!' 'You’ve got to prove yourself!'"

5. Larry Ellison, co-founder of Oracle: Ellison has admitted to battling imposter syndrome throughout his career, often feeling like he wasn't truly deserving of his success.

6. Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo: Nooyi has shared her struggles with imposter syndrome, stating, "I always think that people are going to discover that I’m really not very smart."

7. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook: "There are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am."

8. Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Slack and Flickr: Butterfield has discussed his feelings of being an imposter, especially in the rapidly changing tech industry.

9. Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube: Wojcicki has spoken about her experiences with imposter syndrome, emphasizing the importance of overcoming these doubts.

10.Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla: Musk has hinted at feelings of self-doubt, despite his reputation as a visionary entrepreneur.

11.Marissa Mayer, former CEO of Yahoo: Mayer has discussed the challenge of overcoming imposter syndrome, especially as a woman in the tech industry.

12.Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn: Hoffman has shared his thoughts on imposter syndrome, noting that it's a common feeling among entrepreneurs.

13.Tim Cook, CEO of Apple: Cook has acknowledged the immense pressure and self-doubt he faced in filling Steve Jobs' shoes at Apple.

14.Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal: Amoruso has openly talked about her imposter syndrome, saying, "Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud."



Quick recap.

“Imposter syndrome” is not a syndrome and nothing to be ashamed of. In fact it’s perfectly normal and shows you care – so celebrate it!

I am officially renaming it “role conscientiousness.”

Regardless of what we call it, it’s not a fun place to be. Here are some idea’s to help.

1. Normal to Doubt, Not to Dwell:

2. Gather Success Trophies:

3. Positive Self-Talk is Key:

4. Define Success for You: Success is subjective.

5. 'Good Enough' Can Be Perfect:

6. Plan for Mistakes Compassionately:

7. Value Your Uniqueness, Mind Your Expectations:

See you next week. If you haven't already, follow me on LinkedIn and hit the bell for daily posts on tips, insights and techniques.

Want more? 

When you're ready, 3 ways I can help you:

1. Build self confidence and resilience fast - £48 training course

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2. Work with me 121 - start with a FREE 15 minutes exploration session.

Lets have an open chat and explore how I can help you and what is troubling you.

If we both think we can work together and I have what you need we can go from there.

3. Workshops and Speaking - I run workshops and speak. Book me to help your team increase their productivity.

Nuclear Powered Resilience – learn one golden habit that gives incredible inner strength, comfort and support, that keeps growing by instilling Unconditional Love in your mind.

7 guiding principles to better thinking – what trips up our thinking and how to create different habitual responses.

What they should have taught you at school – awareness of how we think and how to get better results.

Vitamin C for the mind – how to feel and have more control in life, with simple techniques built into a habit.

Happy habits – simple habits to make you feel happier everyday.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading, really hope this helped. Contact me if you think I can help you further at [email protected].

Happy thinking.